Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Pain, Part 2
So the pain has lessened by more than half over the last ten-or-so days. An intense course of steroids seems to have done the trick, though I still wake up in the middle of the night with an agonizing cramp in my right leg. I stretch twice a day and have given up my sessions at the gym. I’m scheduled for an MRI in a week to see whether the spine is involved and I’m hoping it’s not. With a bit of luck, this will be a case of Piriformis Syndrome which hopefully can be healed over time.
According to about.com, “The piriformis is a muscle that is behind the hip joint in the buttocks. The piriformis muscle is small compared to other muscles around the hip and thigh, and it aids in external rotation (turning out) of the hip joint. The muscle and its tendon have a close relationship to the sciatic nerve--the largest nerve in the body--which supplies the lower extremities with motor and sensory function. The piriformis tendon and sciatic nerve cross each other behind the hip joint, in the deep buttock. Both structures are about one centimeter in diameter.
“When people are diagnosed with piriformis syndrome, it is thought that the piriformis tendon may be tethering the sciatic nerve, and causing an irritation to the nerve. While it has not been proven, the theory supported by many physicians is that when the piriformis muscle and its tendon are too tight, the sciatic nerve is pinched. This may decrease the blood flow to the nerve and irritate the nerve because of pressure.”
Strangely enough, there are no specific tests that can accurately identify piriformis syndrome, and it is often misdiagnosed. Other causes of this type of pain include a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, sciatica and hip bursitis. A piriformis syndrome diagnosis is often given when all other possibilities are eliminated as possible causes of pain.
So now you know about as much as I do. I’ve only known one other person to have suffered from this, and the very word ‘piriformis’ sets off Spellcheck alarms.
One night when the pain was intolerable, I ended up at the emergency room and was eventually given a shot of Demerol as well as prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. The shot numbed the pain for a couple of hours, and it came back with a vengeance. The pain meds didn’t work. The next morning I was prescribed something even stronger. I took it and was nauseous for the entire day, then threw up during the night.
Another night I woke up at three in the morning and after ambling around the house for half-an-hour, decided to go for a walk through my neighborhood. About 15 minutes later, a cop car pulled up next to me. Did I need help? Well, yes, but nothing the policeman could offer. I told him what was going on. He nodded, said, “That’s tough! Good luck,” and drove away.
I’m hoping that the nerves and muscles and sinews will return to their right state within a short time. There’s a possibility of getting a cortisone injection if progress is too slow, and I’d welcome that certainly more than surgery, which sometimes must be performed to loosen the piriformis tendon.
Personally, after seven cancer surgeries over the past three years, I’m sort of burned out on anything that involves cutting flesh.